Congress looking into alleged sexual abuse in USA Swimming and other Olympic sports

Written by on May 23, 2018

iStock?Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) — Congress is looking into more alleged sexual assault of Olympic athletes beyond gymnastics – this time involving USA Swimming and other sports.

The president and CEO of USA Swimming, Tim Hinchey, is testifying Wednesday before a House Energy and Commerce subcommittee looking into whether U.S. Olympic organizations have policies and procedures in place to protect athletes given all the recent accusations.

In his prepared testimony, Hinchey admits his sport has been a big part of the problem since even before the gymnastics scandal.

“USA Swimming acknowledges and deeply regrets the abuse suffered by children, athletes, and other participants in swimming programs. Participation in sport should offer physical, social and emotional benefits, but for some, it has resulted in abuse and trauma that will negatively impact the rest of their lives,” Hinchey says in his prepared remarks.

While conceding that “child sexual abuse still occurs in swimming,” Hinchey says “there will be no complacency on [his] watch.”

On Monday, Olympic swimmer Ariana Kukors Smith sued USA Swimming, claiming that the organization knew that her former coach – Sean Hutchison – was sexually abusing her and attempted to mask the scandal.

After Kukors Smith made the accusations public in February, Hutchison released a statement.

“At no time did I ever abuse Ariana Kukors or do anything with her that was not consensual,” he said. Hutchison has not been charged with any crimes at this time. Hutchison’s lawyer, Brad Meryhew, explained to The New York Times that he and his client had no response to the lawsuit following its filing on Monday. ABC News has reached out to Meryhew and is awaiting further comment.

The one-time world champion alleged that Hutchinson began assaulting her about one decade ago when she was 16 years old. Hutchinson supposedly groomed the athlete for a sexual relationship when she was just 13.

While Kukors Smith will not testify at Wednesday’s hearing, she did appear on ABC News’ Good Morning America on Tuesday.

In that interview, the 2012 USA Olympic Team member claimed that USA Swimming, the chief governing body of the sport, failed to protect her from sexual abuse by Hutchison.

“He stole many things from me, including my swimming career, my college experience, friendships, my virginity and ultimately my Olympic dream,” she said. “Not all athletes will become Olympians but all athletes deserve to feel safe on a pool deck.”

Shortly after Kukors Smith’s civil lawsuit was filed in Orange County Superior Court in California, USA Swimming released a statement.

“We respect Ariana Kukors’ bravery in stepping forward and sharing her story,” the statement said. “We have been in regular contact with her legal team over the last several months and will continue to work with them and Ariana through this process.”

Kukors Smith contends that Mark Schubert, USA Swimming and longtime Olympic Coach, was aware of the abuse but failed to act.

Hinchey assumed his position with the sports organization in July 2017, just months before Kukors Smith went public with the alleged abuse.

This case is not an isolated incident for USA Swimming or other Olympic sports. And the swimming scandal comes after dozens of victims testified they were sexually abused by Larry Nassar while he was a doctor for both the USA Olympic and Michigan State Gymnastics teams.

Nassar was found guilty and received what amounted to a life sentence.

Acting CEO of the United States Olympic Committee Susanne Lyons and President & CEO of USA Gymnastics Kerry Perry are also scheduled to testify at Wednesday’s hearing.

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